Professor Hartzog is a Professor of Law and Computer Science at Northeastern University, where he teaches privacy and data protection law, policy, and ethics. He holds a joint appointment with the School of Law and the College of Computer and Information Science. His recent work focuses on the complex problems that arise when personal information is collected by powerful new technologies, stored, and disclosed online.
Professor Hartzog’s work has been published in numerous scholarly publications such as the Yale Law Journal, Columbia Law Review, California Law Review, and Michigan Law Review and popular national publications such as The Guardian, Wired, BBC, CNN, Bloomberg, New Scientist, Slate, The Atlantic, and The Nation. His book, Privacy’s Blueprint: The Battle to Control the Design of New Technologies, is under contract with Harvard University Press. He has testified twice before Congress on data protection issues.
Professor Hartzog has served as a Visiting Professor at Notre Dame Law School and the University of Maine School of Law. He previously worked as an attorney in private practice and as a trademark attorney for the United States Patent and Trademark Office. He also served as a clerk for the Electronic Privacy Information Center. He holds a PhD in mass communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an LLM in intellectual property from the George Washington University Law School, and a JD from Samford University.
I have just uploaded a new essay about online privacy to SSRN that will appear in Volume 46 of the Georgia Law Review. The essay, titled "Chain-Link Confidentiality," asserts that personal information that is shared online can be better protected if we require our confidants to make sure that their confidants are watching out for us. This strategy could help us retain control over our personal information as it moves downstream. Your comments are warmly welcome.
Last week, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in United States v. Jones, in which the Justices held that the government's installation of a GPS device on a target's vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle's movements, constituted a Fourth Amendment search. The decision was surprisingly unanimous on this point, though concurring opinions by Justices Sotomayor and Alito potentially amplify the significance of the opinion by proposing alternate approaches to the larger problem of ubiquitous surveillance technologies and privacy in public. Given the majority opinion's narrow focus on the attachment of the device to the car, the larger issue of privacy in public remains unsettled.
Others have done an exemplary job of commenting on the decision. The dominant themes arising from the decision and analysis of the decision seem to be the (re?)injection of the concept of trespass into Fourth Amendment doctrine, signs of potential withering of the third party doctrine, and recognition that Fourth Amendment and privacy doctrine will soon enough be useless if they do not adequately protect against ever-evolving surveillance methods and technologies.
I'd like to focus on an aspect of the decision that has not shown up much in the analysis of the case, likely because it was never explicitly mentioned in the text. Although the word obscurity does not appear anywhere in United States v. Jones, I think the decision, particularly Justice Sotomayor's concurring opinion, supports the idea that the obscurity of our personal information is worth protecting.
Amazon, the company synonymous with online shopping, is supplying facial recognition technology to government and law enforcement agencies over its web services platform. Branded Rekognition, the technology is every bit as dystopian as it sounds.
Imagine a technology that is potently, uniquely dangerous — something so inherently toxic that it deserves to be completely rejected, banned, and stigmatized. Something so pernicious that regulation cannot adequately protect citizens from its effects. That technology is already here. It is facial recognition technology, and its dangers are so great that it must be rejected entirely.
Imagine a technology that is potently, uniquely dangerous — something so inherently toxic that it deserves to be completely rejected, banned, and stigmatized. Something so pernicious that regulation cannot adequately protect citizens from its effects.
That technology is already here. It is facial recognition technology, and its dangers are so great that it must be rejected entirely.
The user agreement has become a potent symbol of our asymmetric relationship with technology firms. For most of us, it’s our first interaction with a given company. We sign up and are asked to read the dreaded user agreement — a process that we know signifies some complex and inconveniently detrimental implications of using the service, but one that we choose to ignore.
The revelation that Cambridge Analytica was involved in the extraction of data involving over 50 million Facebook users has raised more than a few questions about just what went wrong and who is to blame.
"Hartzog said a 50-state regulatory patchwork isn’t unworkable “because it’s what we’ve been dealing with all along.”"
"Woodrow Hartzog, a professor of law and computer science at Northeastern University, said in his written testimony for the Senate hearing that this model doesn’t work at any large scale.
“The problem with notice and choice models is that they create incentives for companies to both hide the risks in their data practices though manipulative design, vague abstractions, and excessive and complex words while at the same time shifting risk by engineering a system meant to expedite the transfer of rights and relinquishment of protections,” he said."
"Privacy lawyers say the collection of health data by nonhealth entities is legal in most U.S. states, provided there is sufficient disclosure in an app’s and Facebook’s terms of service. The Federal Trade Commission has taken an interest in cases in which data sharing deviates widely from what users might expect, particularly if any explanation was hard for users to find, said Woodrow Hartzog, a professor of law and computer science at Northeastern University."
"“This is the first piece of legislation that I’ve seen that really takes facial recognition technology as seriously as it is warranted and treats it as uniquely dangerous,” says Woodrow Hartzog, professor of law and computer science at Northeastern University."
"Woodrow Hartzog, a Northeastern University professor of law and computer science, examines dark patterns in his book "Privacy’s Blueprint" (Harvard University Press, 2018). “In the aggregate,” he says, the practice “amounts to this collective machine that is trying to extract every ounce of data and value from us.""
Part of the Cyber Insecurity series.
Probe the difficult questions that we will need to address as human-robot relationships evolve in the coming decades. Explore the nuances of our future and prepare for the complex problems that will rise as our lives become more A.I. dependent.
Adults 18+ Only.
This program is free thanks to the generosity of the Lowell Institute.
Ranging across consumer protection, data aggregation, digital networks, high-tech devices and surveillance, this panel brings together top privacy and surveillance experts to discuss how the Trump administration has and will continue to shape our privacy in these and other areas.
- ELIZABETH JOH Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law
- AHMED GHAPPOUR Associate Professor of Law, Boston University School of Law
- ANDREA MATWYSHYN Professor of Law, Northeastern University School of Law
The Tech/Law Colloquium speaker for September 19, 2017 will be Woodrow Hartzog, a professor of law and computer science at Northeastern University, where he teaches privacy and data protection law, policy, and ethics. His recent work focuses on the complex problems that arise when personal information is collected by powerful new technologies, stored, and disclosed online.
Talk: Privacy’s Blueprint: The Battle to Control the Design of New Technologies
Robots are starting to look suspiciously familiar. Increasingly sophisticated robots designed to resemble us are striking up more and more symbiotic relationships with humans, at home as our companions and at our workplaces as colleagues.
Human-robot interactions will continue to evolve as robotic technology transforms the way we see our creations and the way they react to us. But as machines cease acting like machines and become more integrated into our lives, how will we feel about them? And, dare we ask, how will they feel about us?
Listen to the full radio show (in German) at Deutschlandradio.
"On the other hand: even algorithms can make mistakes. You will eventually written by humans. And just legal texts can be difficult in a formalized language to translate. They are, says Woodraw Hartzog, just not made for it to be automated. And they are not made to be enforced to one hundred percent."